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Preventing Heart Attacks

Monitoring Your Health

While the first step in preventing heart attacks is understanding the risk factors, the next step is actually knowing whether you have any of these risk factors, especially the ones that you can control (such as diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure).
 
Prevent or Manage Diabetes
About 17 million people in the United States have diabetes, and heart disease is the leading cause of death of those with the disease. According to the American Diabetes Association, two out of three people with diabetes die from heart disease or stroke.
 
Diabetes is a disease in which the body does not properly produce or use insulin. Insulin is a hormone needed to convert sugar, starches, and other nutrients into energy. Another 16 million Americans have pre-diabetes, a condition in which blood glucose levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes. Genetics and lifestyle factors such as obesity and physical inactivity can lead to diabetes.
 
One in three people who have diabetes don't know they have it. See a doctor if you have any diabetes symptoms, which include:
 
  • Frequent urination
  • Excessive thirst
  • Extreme hunger
  • Unusual weight loss
  • Increased fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Blurry vision.
     
(Click Diabetes Treatment for more information.)
 
Control High Cholesterol
High cholesterol is one of several heart attack risk factors. Cholesterol is a fat-like substance in the blood. High cholesterol does not cause immediate damage over days, weeks, or months. However, over years, high blood cholesterol can take its toll, leading to atherosclerosis, which is a narrowing or complete blockage of arteries because of the buildup of plaque on artery walls. The arteries most affected by plaque buildup are the coronary arteries, which supply blood to the heart. This is one reason why heart disease and heart attacks are one of the effects of high cholesterol.
 
There have been several studies that that have looked at the effects of cholesterol treatment to prevent heart disease. These cholesterol research studies have shown that the progress of atherosclerosis may be halted by reducing cholesterol. In some cases, it may even be reversed. This results in fewer people developing and dying from heart disease. It also lowers the number people with heart disease who have another heart attack or die from heart disease.
 
You should have your blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels checked (through a lipid panel test) at least once every five years. If your triglyceride or cholesterol levels are high, talk to your doctor about what you can do to lower them. You may be able to lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels by eating better and exercising more. Your doctor may prescribe cholesterol medication to help lower cholesterol.
 
(Click Lowering Cholesterol for more information.)
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